With few mineral resources, overcrowded Bangladesh
depends mainly on a subsistence agriculture which
is frequently hampered by cyclones and flooding.
Tea and jute are the main cash crops - Bangladesh
supplies about 90% of the world's raw jute - production
of both of which has dipped in recent years, again
largely owing to the weather.
There are large reserves of natural gas and some
deposits of low-grade coal which meet the bulk
of domestic energy requirements. Offshore gas
production, which has just begun in the Bay of
Bengal, may soon improve the country's overall
energy situation. Most of the manufacturing workforce
is based in jute-related industries; the remainder
works in textiles, chemicals and sugar.
For the foreseeable future, Bangladesh will continue
to rely heavily on foreign aid: at present this
derives from a variety of sources co-ordinated
by the World Bank-led 'Paris Club' of donors.
In total, Bangladesh receives disbursements of
around US$2 billion annually.
However, throughout the 1990s, Bangladesh's economic
stability and steady growth has made improved
its status in international financial markets
and it is now beginning to attract the level of
foreign investment which the government considers
essential to its future development.
The USA is substantially the largest export market
followed by Italy, Japan, Singapore and the UK.
Japan, Canada and Singapore are the country's
main suppliers of imports, which are mostly manufactured
suits or shirt and tie are recommended. Suits
are necessary when calling on Bengali officials.
Cards are given and usual courtesies are observed.
Visitors should not be misled by the high illiteracy
rate and low educational level of most of the
population. Given the opportunity, Bangladeshis
prove to be good business people and tough negotiators.
The best time to visit is October to March.
0900-1700 Sunday to Thursday and 0800-1430 (government